Editor's note: Some time ago, The Enquirer asked readers to submit stupid questions they'd like answered. This story is in response to the following question:
Dear Ask a Stupid Question: The 50th anniversary of that supposed crash of a UFO in Roswell, N.M., had us thinking: Are there really extraterrestrial spacecraft and the bodies of aliens stored in Hangar 13 (also known as Hangar 18, Area 18 and Building 18) at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base? And should we believe the new Air Force report that the aliens were really crash test dummies?
BY JIM KNIPPENBERG
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Gee, thanks for asking. And don't write us anymore.
(David Aikins illustration)
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What aliens would look like
Well alright, already, maybe there's a bevy of iced aliens at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and maybe there isn't.
If there are, we were wondering what they would look like?
People around Roswell, N.M., in 1947 know. Retired Col. Philip Corso author of Day After Roswell, offers a description based on personal experience when he pulled the lid off a makeshift coffin: He saw a "four-foot human-shaped figure with arms, bizarre-looking four-fingered hands - I didn't see a thumb," with thin legs and feet. The head was oversized and shaped like a light bulb.
The alien's eye sockets were large and almond shaped with the point of the almond pointing to a tiny nose which was level with the plane of the face.
Facial features were all arranged frontally below a wide and high forehead.
They had no ears, no definition to the cheeks and absolutely no hint of facial hair.
The mouth was just a tiny slit that looked more like a crease or an indentation.
Your questions turned out to be like Helen of Troy - you know, "the face that launched a 1,000 ships and burnt the topless towers of Ilium." Your question launched a 1,000 telephone calls and nearly burnt the topless towers of Stupid's patience.
The thing to do, Stupid concluded, is take a look. You know, snoop around a bit, poke around behind closed doors, ask a few questions. Wrong, says Lt. Kimberly Devereux of Wright-Pat's public affairs office. "We do have tours for groups, schools, ROTC groups, media, that sort of thing. We show them labs, the simulators, a little bit of the research, all the gee whiz, ooh aah stuff.
"But certain programs require a certain security clearance. That's off limits."
"Certain programs?" Like Hangar 18? "Like the National Air Intelligence Center," Lt. Devereux says. "As I said, we have no aliens at Wright-Pat."
And furthermore, thoroughly dashing Stupid's hopes, "this is not an open base. You can't just walk around anywhere."
If you could, you would find 23,000 military and civilian personnel sprawled over an 8,145-acre complex.
Plenty of room to stash a couple blocks of ice and some shriveled up little aliens.
If they existed. Which they don't.
Then again . . .
The story goes like this . . .
First the background, as reported by retired Col. Philip Corso in The Day After Roswell (Pocket Books; $24): In early July 1947 (July 4 is the date cited most often), a spacecraft crashed near Roswell, N.M. According to observers who claim to have been on the scene, the large silver ship landed on its side in the desert.
The crash ripped a long gash in the belly and up the side of the ship. A goodly size pile of debris was sucked out of the gash. So were five aliens.
The Army, stationed nearby at White Sands Missile Base, reacted swiftly: They sealed the area, "debriefed" observers and began collecting debris.
And aliens. Some of the five were still alive but dying in the Earth's atmosphere. It was easy for army personnel to strap them to stretchers and load them and the debris onto transport vehicles. Destination of the vehicles? Dayton, Ohio's, Wright Airfield, today known as Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.
The debris would be stored and analyzed behind locked doors. The aliens, all dead by now, would be shipped out and autopsied at Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington, D.C., then put into storage, supposedly at Wright-Pat.
Controversy flares again
In the years since Roswell, a treasury of mythology has built up around Wright-Pat and Hangar 18, the site where the government supposedly stashed space debris and alien bodies.
Lo these 50 years later, Roswell is a hot topic for any number of reasons, not least of which was the release Tuesday of a 231-page Air Force report, "Case Closed," on the "Roswell Incident." It said the aliens you asked Stupid about were crash test dummies. Then there are the recent stirs in Arizona. Monday night, the launch of a Minuteman II missile from California's Vandenberg Air Force Base had dozens of people calling Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona to report UFOs and strange lights. On March 16, there were sightings of a V-shaped craft, more than a mile from V-tip to V-tip, that spent 106 minutes cruising the skies above Phoenix. Roswell isn't that close to Phoenix for the likes of us, but in galactic terms, it's less than spitting distance.
Roswell also is:
- Subject of Mr. Corso's new book.
- Subject of cover stories in this week's Time, the June Popular Science and the July Popular Mechanics.
- Subject of several new games, including a briskly selling CD-ROM name of Jonny Quest: Cover-Up at Roswell.
- Star of its own Web site: http://dspace.dial.pipex.com/aaes/scispi/roswell dispenses background and updated info, including alleged alien autopsy photos.
Who to believe?
Hangar 18 figures prominently into all the above. Reports from '47 and from today repeatedly list it as the resting place of the space debris and the aliens.
UFO buffs say Hangar 18 is there, but the government says there's no Hangar 18, not now, not ever. There isn't, says Wright Pat's Lt. Devereux. "Not to my knowledge, or the knowledge of anyone on our staff," she said, laughing robustly at your question.
"The official statement," she says, is, "we do not have or ever had any aliens on Wright-Patterson AFB."
Not only is there no Hangar 18, there haven't been visiting UFOs either, says this week's Air Force report as well as an earlier Air Force report issued at the conclusion of Project Blue Book. The 22-year AF study of 12,618 UFO sightings showed "no evidence indicating that sightings categorized as 'unidentified' were extraterrestrial vehicles."
We agree - there's no Hangar 18, chimes in the U.S. Army, which claims Roswell never happened and that the debris found in the desert was a system of weather balloons run amok.
Chorus of corroboration
Au contraire, say a chorus of other voices.
Mr. Corso, for one, says so in his Day After Roswell, published June 18 in honor of the 50th anniversary. Mr. Corso was a member of President Dwight Eisenhower's National Security Council, former head of the Foreign Technology Desk at the U.S. Army's Research & Development Department and the very man, he says, in charge of baby sitting some of the crash debris when it was shipped to the Pentagon. Using what he says is first-hand knowledge as well as documents recently declassified through the Freedom of Information Act, he makes a 341-page case that Roswell did indeed happen, that Wright-Pat was one of the prominent players, and that the government is still covering things up today.
Indeed they are covering up, agrees Richard Hall, chairman of the Fund for UFO Research near Washington, D.C. His organization is a nonprofit group that provides funding and grants for serious UFO studies.
"Hangar 18 is fiction, of course," but Wright-Pat's role in Roswell "is much stronger than rumor. There is testimony collected from people who claim first-hand experience. Much of it is from the '50s" when Roswell was a fresh topic.
"We regularly take on the Air Force in these matters," Mr. Hall said. "On the materials (debris) they have stored for example. There is multiple testimony that these aren't off-the-shelf materials. They're too tough; they couldn't be cut, burned or crushed.
"That's why we totally discount the government's explanation that it was a weather balloon and believe that something did happen there."
Local group senses coverup
Kenny Young believes it, too: "I'm inclined to reserve judgment, but I do believe that when there's smoke, there's fire. Too many people have been saying too much for too long, and much of it has been corroborated," says Mr. Young, communications director of TriState Advocates for Scientific Knowledge (TASK).
TASK - http://home.fuse.net/task is a local group that investigates UFO sightings. So far this year, there have been 15 to 20 reports locally, nearly double the tally at this time last year.
"Hangar 18 has been reported many times," Mr. Young says, "often by people in the military. A number of researchers have been told - all by military personnel - about little men in freezers. "I've been to Wright-Pat to look around," he says, "and even popped the question to a bus driver. You could tell by the reaction that everyone on the bus had been waiting for someone to ask the question. "The bus driver just laughed and said, 'You don't really believe that, do you?' "
If the aliens aren't stashed in Wright-Pat freezers, Mr. Jones says, you might look westward. "Part of the story also leads to Area 15, a top secret installation in Nevada. Some people say the aliens were moved there from Hangar 18."
Then there's Nevada
When asked Tuesday about Area 15 (highlighted in the movie Independence Day), Air Force Col. John Haynes said: "There is a facility at Groom Lake, Nevada. Quite frankly, I have no knowledge or expertise in the matter. As I understand, there are classified things that go on there, and that's all I have to say about it."
And guess where Groom Lake is? It's in the Nevada desert, about 75 miles due south of . . . Lunar Crater.